The refusal by IDF reservists to follow orders and calls for the murder of Israeli politicians and leaders will not be tolerated, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.
“We will not accept anarchy,” he said. “There are those who are calling for the blocking of highways, for refusal, for blood in the streets and to attack public figures. We will not accept this. We will not accept violence by any side.”
Netanyahu spoke as reservists failed to show up for training on Sunday to protest the government’s judicial overhaul plan, a move that they fear will destroy Israeli democracy.
“I expect the [Israel Police] inspector-general and the police to enforce the law, to prevent violence and the blocking of roads, and to enable the daily life of the citizens of the country,” he said. “I expect the Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and the State Attorney’s Office to take determined action against those who incite to murder ministers and MKs, and the prime minister and his family, without turning a blind eye, without cutting slack and without cutting corners.”
“I expect the IDF chief of staff and the heads of the security services to vigorously fight against refusal to serve,” Netanyahu said. “There is no place in the public discourse for refusal to serve. A state that values life cannot tolerate such phenomena, and we will not tolerate them.”
Israel has long had a strong history of soldiers refusing orders that violated their conscience, although it is rare for such a large number to refuse to show up for reserve duty.
Netanyahu called for dialogue on the judicial reform plan, but he did not delay the legislation until such talks have been completed.
“Instead of incitement and calls to anarchy, instead of awareness engineering by the propaganda channels, there needs to be a genuine, substantive and fair discussion of the judicial reform,” Netanyahu said.
The plan seeks to restore the balance between “the legislative, the executive and the judicial,” which has been overturned in the last decades, he said. “It is for this purpose that we were elected, and this is what we will do. We will do so with consideration and responsibility in a way that preserves the rights of every citizen of Israel – secular and religious, women, LGBTQ, minorities, everyone without exception.”
In a letter circulated to the Israeli media on Sunday, 450 protesters describing themselves as volunteer reservists from military special forces and another 200 as volunteer reservist offensive cyber operators, including from the Mossad and the Shin Bet, said they were now refusing call-ups.
“We have no contract with a dictator,” they wrote. “We would be happy to volunteer when democracy is safeguarded.”
A man describing himself as a military intelligence captain taking part in Sunday’s reservist protest said he and other signatories were deemed volunteers in part because their time commitments exceeded normal quotas for reservists.
Signaling that the protest would be suspended in the event of a compulsory wartime call-up, he told KAN News: “We are not calling for refusing orders. We are calling for a halt to the volunteering.”
In response to Netanyahu’s comments, opposition leader Yair Lapid wrote on Twitter: “Netanyahu, stop the legislation and the chief of staff will not have to fight against refusals, the Shin Bet head will not have to fight incitement, and the [Israel Police] commissioner will be available to fight terrorism prior to Ramadan. Everything is in your hands; stop placing the responsibility on everyone else.”
National Unity chairman Benny Gantz wrote: “Netanyahu, the question is not how the chief of staff will fight refusals, or how the Shin Bet head and the Israel Police commissioner will maintain public order. The problem is your refusal to stop the civil war and to begin dialogue, and your attempt to create anarchy in the judicial system.”